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John Leavitt: Charitable plans transform business

Friday, February 26, 2021 - 17:03

When reflecting on his business, John Leavitt refers to some of the tallest trees in the world. Though redwood trees stretch 350 feet in the air, it’s their root systems that intrigue the financial consultant.

Redwood roots grow only about six feet underground but can reach out 100 feet from the trunk. Roots from one tree intertwine with those from others. “Redwood trees that do the best are surrounded by other redwoods, and the roots support each other,” John says.

Sharing big ideas
Using the redwood trees for inspiration, John’s team partners with another local team to host quarterly strategic growth meetings via Zoom for FPs across the country “who want to learn big ideas and push their business forward.” John says, “We created a platform to reach out and support each other.”

Grow stronger with joint field work
John had been with Thrivent for more than a decade before intentionally adding the charitable planning discussion into every client meeting. This conversation has led to helping his clients support the causes and charities closest to their hearts.

A conversation at a Thrivent event with Financial Consultant Andrew Mortenson transformed John’s business plan to incorporate charitable planning with every client. “They all want to talk about it,” John explains, citing Thrivent’s mission and the values of its members.

During that introduction, John asked Andrew about his business, and Andrew was excited to share how he was helping his clients leave lasting legacies. The two have collaborated on charitable cases ever since.

They recently helped a retired couple avoid paying taxes on their $85,000 IRA required minimum distribution, which they don’t need for living expenses. Their qualified charitable distribution is now given to a non-advised fund, which then is used to pay annual life insurance premiums. The future death benefit will provide significant support to the couples’ church and provide college scholarships.

Simple questions, greater impact
John gauges clients’ charitable intent by studying tax returns and understanding their volunteer activity through Thrivent action teams and Choice dollars. John then asks clients simple questions, such as:

  • What if we could put a plan together that would minimize what goes to taxes and maximize what goes to family and causes you care about? 
  • Would you like to leave money to your church and/or favorite charities and causes after you're gone?

“These questions lead to deep conversations with Christians who want to keep giving,” John says. Based on what he knows about the clients, he recommends solutions that can include church, college scholarships and more.

“Not all my proposals are implemented, but I always make sure clients know about charitable solutions, and most appreciate it,” John says. “Having these solutions sets you apart from other firms. It’s hard to imagine they have these kinds of conversations with their clients.”